Written by Blair Moon @_blairmoon
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Shondalia White, who plays Karen Jones on ‘BMF’ and she told me all about her character who will be recurring for the remainder of the season, how it was on set, and upcoming projects that she's working on.
50 Cent's new series ‘BMF’ which stands for Black Mafia Family is heating up on Starz. The series, which is executive produced by 50 Cent, airs each Sunday and tells the true story of a drug and money laundering organization in Detroit back in the ’80s.
In last week's episode, the character Karen Jones was introduced. Karen is the niece of Pastor Swift (Snoop Dogg) and is a lawyer helping Terry (Da’vinci) sue the hospital he had surgery at for malpractice.
Hello Shondalia, how are you?
I’m well, thank you.
Let’s dive right into it, your character, Karen Jones was recently introduced on ‘BMF’. What can you tell us about your character?
I am the niece of Pastor Swift, who is played by Snoop Dogg. I went to the University of Michigan Law School and I’m all about getting justice. I am trying to help the Flenorys' get the justice they deserve, as well as bring a little hope to the family.
Terry’s father Charles (Russell Hornsby) has trouble putting trust into Karen due to his dislike for Pastor Swift, does Karen have Terry’s best interest at heart or should we keep an eye on her?
He does not trust my uncle at all, and my uncle referred me to them, so he’s kind of apprehensive. But Karen is a hardcore Christian. She is someone with a heart of gold, so she has his best interest at heart. She’s a young lawyer in Detroit and she definitely cares about her clients.
She’s the real deal. Very professional. After your character appeared on the show for the first time, you posted to your Instagram that we’ll be seeing more of Karen, what more can we expect from you in the role, what else is Karen bringing to the table?
Without giving any spoilers, you will see Karen for the rest of the season. Karen is going to do whatever it takes to give Terry the justice he deserves.
I know that you’re a comedian as well and I’ve seen clips of you in comedic roles on different television shows like ‘Blackish’, ‘Shameless’ and ‘Family Reunion’ and on ‘Good Trouble’ and ‘BMF’ you play more serious characters, do you find it more challenging to switch from comedy to drama?
I love tapping into different characters. I am someone that loves doing comedy and drama, it is not difficult for me to jump into it. As a comedian, comedy comes from drama and I can easily tap into it. I really enjoy doing both. ‘BMF’ is very serious and Karen is a very studious, very serious person. In ‘Good Trouble’ my character is down on luck. She’s really tough too, in the first episode of season 3 when she shows up, she’s in jail. She’s like that person in and out of jail all the time. She’s caught up in the system. So it’s actually pretty fun for me to jump into different characters but I do like to balance it with comedy.
Did you know the history of the ‘BMF’ story prior to working on the show?
It was actually new for me and I’m from Michigan. As a Michigander, a lot of my older family, know the story. I found myself asking them if they remembered anything, but primarily just learning about the cases. Malpractice suits and what lawyers have to know in addition to researching just what happened. I wanted to make sure that I was a good lawyer because Karen is a really good lawyer and I wanted to make sure that I was able to embody that. I actually spoke to lawyer friends. It’s really helpful, to the point where some people on set were like, “are you an actual attorney?” I was like “Oh, that’s a good compliment.”
‘BMF’ has a stellar cast and crew with producers and directors like 50 Cent to Tasha Smith, to starring icons like Russell Hornsby, Steve Harris, Wood Harris, Snoop Dogg, and Lala to name a few, what was it like working on that set?
Honestly, it was really fun, everyone was so welcoming. It definitely felt like a family. I was grateful to be there. 50 is really dope. My first time coming to the table read, he just welcomed me and let everyone know that there was a new cast member coming to the room. It was just really nice. Very nice and professional. Tasha’s awesome, she’s so funny, she’s funny! She’s a lot of fun to have on set. She definitely was a part of that-what made it a community. All the co-stars- you have a lot of veterans in the game, being able to perform with them and just watch and learn from them was just amazing.
How was it working with Snoop Dogg, since you play his niece on the ‘BMF’?
I didn’t get to be on set with him, I was in table reads with him and he was so funny and he always called me sweetheart.
Now on ‘BMF’ you have a more serious role, do you like to add comedic elements to your serious roles since you are a comedian to make it more personal to you?
On ‘BMF’, they gave me a little bit of leeway to improvise some stuff but it was pretty much to script. Randy Huggins and his team are fantastic writers. I like to be- because I am also a writer, I like to be respectful to the writers but if I can do some- I call them little buttons- If I can do like a little eye look, like a nonverbal thing, or expression, or like a little ad-lib at the end to kind of bring it in; especially for an audition to make me stand out, I’ll definitely go for it. But sometimes it doesn't cause for it. Sometimes it causes for an emotion and just holding that emotion and really sitting in it and being vulnerable.
What’s next for Shondalia?
I have a lot of animated stuff coming out next year. I do have one animated film that will be coming out next month. It’s a DreamWorks animated film I’ll be a part of. I just wrote my first pilot, so I'll be shopping that very soon. Seeing where it goes with ‘BMF’ as far as what else does Karen have in store. I can’t wait because I haven’t seen everything so I’m even excited to see what they’ve chosen because we shot so much, so it’s like “what did they choose”, or “how did they do this”, or “what the final look is.”
What was the feeling like, when Karen made her first appearance on ‘BMF’?
I was toasting with my Moet. I was so happy and this is the first time I actually celebrated myself on TV. I had my husband and a couple friends over and we had popcorn and snacks and it was like a premiere party. It was very heartwarming and a very proud moment. I’ll likely watch it a couple more times even.
Let everyone know where they can find you on social media so they can keep up with everything that you have coming up next year?
You can follow me @ShondaliaWhite on Instagram and Twitter. I have a fan page on FaceBook, it’s ‘Shondalia White Fans’. I do respond to my fans when they respond to posts and say things so hit me up.
Best of luck to everything you have going on and thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Thanks for having me. Nice to meet you, Blair.